Submission Window Extended!

Good news for those of you who are so close to finishing up that story, but haven’t quite managed to do so yet – we’re extending our submission window! In order to open up the submission opportunity for Fear the Boot listeners, Dan will be making an announcement soon on the podcast. Because of that, our new closing date will be August 31, 2015. All other information remains the same, so be certain to check out Submission Information!

Submissions Now Open

Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction is now accepting submissions for Volume 3. Please remember to submit a pitch to the editors prior to submitting your story. For information on our style guide and theme, visit our “Submission Information” page.

We will be accepting stories at the end of the submission window, so you won’t hear back from us until early June regarding your story, unless we make extensive edits. We’ll definitely edit your story if you get it sent in, but that does not guarantee you a place in Volume 3. We learned a lot about book size in creating Volume 2, and we will be limiting Volume 3 to 25 stories.

We’re excited to read your stories, so get them sent in!

Sojourn Volume Two Book Release Party

On Saturday, December 20th, the authors of Sojourn Volume Two will be hosting a book release party on Facebook.  You can find the details here!  We’ll be talking about the stories, answering your questions, and giving away prizes.  At the end of the event, we’ll also do a drawing for the grand prize of a Fire HD 7 or $150 in Amazon gift certificates (winner’s choice).  We hope to see you there!

The Three Types of Writing Advice

It is a truism that a wise person is someone who seeks out the advice of others. This holds true for many areas but particularly in writing. Writing is a complicated venture and for the most part each writer has to undertake the journey alone. I have identified three layers of writing advice, each with its own focus and each with its own objectives.

  1. Drafting Advice. This is the nitty gritty of writing. The grindstone upon which the writer has to submit. In my mind this is the lowest, but most crucial, area of writing. It is the wide foundation that is based mostly in the world of simply conveying the ideas through words. A lot of this type of advice is accomplished in a composition course. The Elements of Style, and pretty much any grammar book, will teach you the rules and rhythms of the English language. But reading a lot of fiction will subconsciously teach you the subtle and interwoven tricks of writing effectively and evocatively. Whether it is in corporate memos or urban fantasy novellas, having a grasp on the rhythm of language goes into every form of writing.
  2. Craft of Storytelling Advice. As we enter the second layer of writing advice, the pyramid narrows and the advice becomes more cerebral. Say goodbye to your muggle friends, this is only the place for creative writers. As the muggles leave the self proclaimed “artists” arrive. That is the first advice I have to give, there is a lot of writing advice that is more pseudo-philosophical than really any practical help. I would be the last to deny that writing is an art form, but to mystify the process of writing is not the way to help a struggling writer get better at their craft. Telling a writer that what they do is equivalent to Homer and Virgil is not very practical or helpful in any way. So my advice is to be to be picky when it comes to books on writing advice. If a book does not immediately speak to you and your concerns in a practical and substantive way then drop it and move on. Some great books that I have read on the craft of writing are The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder (although it is directed at screenwriting the advice is applicable to prose writing), and Plot by Ansen Dibell,.
  3. Motivation Advice. The third layer of advice, and the one that to me forms the peak of the pyramid, is about motivation and lifestyle. Creative writing is a very arduous undertaking. The only people that think writing is easy or fluff work are people that don’t write. When people do “serious work” they do not consistently bleed their emotions onto a blank slate. That is only where the fluff work begins, because the next step is to beat the living hell out of your own creation as you revise your work. Writing actually takes a lot more courage than most people would believe. Also this is the layer of advice that is most susceptible to the armchair guru. We have entered into true self-help territory so keep your wits about you. But two great books that motivate me to write (when I could be doing a lot of easier things) are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (this book covers all layers respectively and is a must read for all creative writers).

Worldbuilding Series Part 6: Western Magic

Eureka! I just got it.

So my base concept for Western magic was that it was formulaic, predictable, and scientific. That makes sense right? Because it is a direct opposite of Eastern magic, diacritology, that is more creative and a impulsive magic system. Well the problem is that I found that answer to be really boring. A lot of magic systems are about memorization and formulas and all that junk. I didn’t want that. I wanted a magic system that said something interesting about the theme of virtue. It is kind of pointless to a have a thematic structure to your world if it never comes into play. I believe that a magic system based on creativity is perfect for the theme of passion, since that is where the source of art derives from. But a formulaic magic system (to put it in a reductive phrasing) does not really meet the mark of the theme of virtue. While having virtue does set boundaries and limitations upon actions it is by no means a straight jacket for life.

But just before I sat down to write this post I got the idea. I needed a metaphor that would work well with virtue. And suddenly the idea of farming came into my mind. What if you had a magic system that was akin to the actions of a farmer, where over a long period of time the wizard nurtures and cares for a spell and then at the appropriate time “harvests” the spell and casts it. Drawing upon one of my earlier ideas, I can have the magic system be more based on enchanting items and talismans than the Eastern magic system.

I have not worked on the languages of the West so I don’t have name for it yet.I keep on going back to Allomancy, but I can’t name it that because it’s already taken. Curses.

Worldbuilding Series Part 5: Eastern Magic

The first thought that came into my mind about the magic is that the virtuous magic system should be more permanent, long lasting, and more concerned with items and talismans (basically enchanting). The passion magic is more bombastic with magic missiles, fireballs, and lightning bolts (think of the bending in Avatar: the Last Airbender). Now these were my kneejerk reactions to the problem (literally I came up with that concept within minutes), and I have kept to those concepts for weeks as I went about my daily routine for the last few weeks. But as I sat down to write this post I found that concept a little stale and uninteresting. I liked the general idea but it needed some twist, some fun in order to make it work.

I decided to match the passion magic with a metaphor about creativity. So the passion magic cannot do all the crazy stuff as mentioned (I’ll get to that below) but they can create in a manner of seconds anything that they imagine. Now that is pretty crazy, so let me as I create boundaries (i.e. the laws or rules) of the system.

  • Cannot create living organisms, only inanimate objects
  • Cannot “Impose”: that is you cannot create an item exactly in the place of another; things must be created in the open
  • Cannot create massive things (the largest even the best wizards can  construct a building)
  • the system is built upon a complexity tier pyramid: the more complex something is the more energy, expertise, and time is needed to perform. So, for instance, building a complete house is a lot harder than building the separate materials of a house.
  • Also objects that are cast must react to the laws of physics. So lets say you create a javelin above your head right above your thrown arm while you are riding a horse at a full gallop. The created javelin will be launched forward at the speed of the horse.

I’m sure more rules and laws will appear to me in the future but that is it for now. But I want to comment now on how the magic system works for the Easterners. I guess I should give it a name. I first thought of calling it Conjuring but that is not as versatile a word as I wanted, since you can’t conjugate it that well (e.g. chemistry, chemist, chemical). So instead I turned to a conlang. I have actually developed at least four hundred root words for an ancient Eastern language (it is basically Italian put through a meat blender). I will have a post on conlanging but for now just build an ancient or proto language and then build up from there, it is both more interesting and complex and a lot more fun than going backwords. So anyway I came up with diacrita which means to “dream craft” or in another translation to “play with dreams.” The actual terminology would be diacritology, the study and practice; diacrition(s) (dye-uh-CREE-shuns) the practitioners of diacrita, and diacritic being the adjective form of the word.

So Conjuring requires two phases, drafting (which is done in the mind) and casting (where the imagination is created). Drafting is where the diacritions is piecing together in his mind what he wants to create. Let’s say that he wants to draft a coffee table. He can’t just zap it into existence, he has to think about and go over every single detail as if he had made the coffee table by hand. “Has a wooden surface and four wooden legs,” he says. Well he wouldn’t be able to cast the spell because he would be trying to cast something of infinite size and dimension.

This leads into another interesting aspect. When diacritions are at a young age they can virtually create anything of their hearts desire very easily (now these things are very simple and crude but are very impressive). What happens is that as they reach into maturity their wide breath of magic lessens and even disappears. The diacrition’s ability is limited to a certain field and within that field they can only craft a limited list of items within a few seconds. So the categories that they are limited to are determined by what they did a lot as novices. And the categories are as varied and as diverse as people’s interests from sculpture, to architecture, to warfare.

That is where I am going to leave diacritology for now but let me just mention one thing: did you think about the problem of counterfeiting? So did I. That is an interesting question: how does a civilization adapt to the problem of a ton of people being able to make counterfeits.


Worldbuilding Series Part 4: Magic Primer

Sorry for the hiatus. I was graduating from high school and I have been busy writing and then completely rewriting my submission for Sojourn V2 (yeah, that is two 9000+ word stories). So now onto magic systems.

I am at a complete loss when it comes to developing magic systems. They are something that do not come easily to me. I do not know why. I love magic systems in video games, books and such but it is never something that I devote much time to. The fate of my magic systems are usually vague and nebulous (and not in a good way). So when it comes to not knowing what the hell to do, turn to the experts. And the expert in my opinion is Brandon Sanderson. I absolutely love his books and the magic systems that he creates in his works.

First off, if you haven’t already get yourself antiquated with Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. I agree completely with his interpretation and his rules. Since I have never truly developed a magic system before (neither one that is scientific or wondrous) I will go on the side of a “hard magic system.”

It makes sense that since my world is divided between the ideas of passion and virtue that I would give each “world” its own magic system. Well let me flip the table over by including three! Boom! The third system will be blood magic and it will be the “evil magic.” I want this magic system to be softer than the more standard types since it is so evil and mysterious (of course in the future I can always go and develop this more).



More on Sojourn Volume Two

The second volume is coming along wonderfully!  The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and quite a few authors are ahead of schedule with their submissions and edits.  In fact, I’d like to congratulate Michael Budd on being the first author to complete the entire process, from submission to editing to contract signing.

So what’s on tap for our second outing?  Laura just teased some of the content in her prior post, so I’ll talk about the authors.  Obviously things are subject to change, but as it stands now, it looks like Volume Two may be twice the size of Volume One.  So far we’ve got…

  1. Every single author for Volume One coming back.
  2. Ken Hite and Eddy Webb joining us from the industry pro side.
  3. A significant number of new, up-and-coming authors.

As for my own contribution, I sent several pitches to the editors and asked them to pick the one that would add the most variety to the stories they’ve already received.  They both picked Gnarl Saves Christmas, so I’m working on a comedy adventure, written in the form of a chintzy, holiday poem.  My favorite gnoll will do what Elmo, Tim Allen, Ernest P. Worrell, and countless stop-motion characters have done before him, though he’s got his own way of handling the task.

This man had a smile and gifts in his sack,
But Gnarl was hungry and just grabbed his ax.
Now, fat men are not healthy for you or for me,
But what cardiologist would gnollish folk see?
So they clawed and they fought and they chopped him to bits,
Then put what was left on their wrought iron spits.
Gnarl and Sharpa hardly could speak,
For they’d never fought a wizard so stupidly weak.
But whatever the foe, adventuring can’t be done shoddy,
So Gnarl was quick to loot Santa Claus’ body.

Worldbuilding Series Part 3: The World Map

When writing this post up I am reminded of that Hollywood Producer’s cliche “you have three options: fast, cheap, and good–pick two.” So there is no perfect way of coming up with a map. The process I use is pretty complicated and using both my computer and good old fashion pen and pencil. So here we go.

The first question that has to answered is: can you draw and do you have patience? On the first question I would say that I am above doodling. I know how to draw  but I would never describe myself as in artist.

First off I always create a world map. The reason is because I love world maps and the second reason is that it is much easier to zoom out than it is to zoom in. If you were wondering I am definitely a macro to micro worldbuilder. Now the first thing that I must do is to decide on what I want in my map. Whenever you are at a loss in the creative process remind yourself of what your goals are. And if you discover that you don’t have any goals well go back and create some. Since this world is going to be vaguely Cold War like with East vs. West my main goal is that I want the geography to clearly show the east-west divide. Also as added detail I want the divide to be a water barrier like a sea or a great lake. So that rules out pangeas and archipelagos

Now the program I use for my map-making is a software called Fractal Mapper 8.0. I first picked up the software about eight years ago. The software is good and as served me well over the years. But the problem is that I have worked with it so long that I have become used to its nuances and frustrated by its limitations.  I find the main program too tedious for my map-making (I don’t want to waste precious time dragging and dropping the mountains for this mountain chain or having to fiddle with the layers). But what is in the purchase of Fractal Mapper is this free add-on called Fractal World Explorer. What this program does is that it randomly generates a world map. This is the main lesson I have: use computer generated maps for inspiration but do the nitty gritty by hand. It will save you a lot of headache. So after cycling through a few dozen worlds I find one that is promising. preliminary map blank ….Yeah that’s the catch. Fractal World Explorer will spit out a complete and utter mess. This is just a catastrophe. But it does give you tools to fix it and the many years that I have been using this program I honed the use of these tools to do my bidding. And I can notice some promising areas that can work with my stated goal. preliminary map planningThe circled areas are the places that I find interesting and that I want to develop (the part with the black zigzags are the places that I am going to nuke completely). The image below is the result of my labors. Now for some stupid reason the software has this Mercator projection to the map so the areas near the poles are stretched so that massive area near the top is much smaller once put on a globe (a cool feature that is apart of Fractal World Explorer). I am going to pull up Fantasy Name Generator and pluck out a few names. I am done for now. Later I will develop a more extensive geography, but for that I like to use pen and pencil.  Next time we will discuss the magic system of the world. See you then!  world with names